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Art/Object: Contemporary Works Between Mediums
Temporary Exhibition

Art/Object: Contemporary Works Between Mediums

October 18, 2021–October 31, 2022

A Cantor Arts Center Curatorial Fellow Online Exhibition

An image depicting "The Color of Pink" by Allen Ruppersberg
This exhibition and publication are part of a collaborative initiative between the Cantor Arts Center and Stanford’s Department of Art & Art History. The initiative, the Cantor Curatorial Fellowship, aims to make the multifaceted museum a compelling and vivid component of the department’s graduate student academic experience. The resulting exhibition projects are designed to provide doctoral students with the unique opportunity to work directly with objects as they curate focused, scholarly exhibitions that relate both to their own research interests and to the museum’s holdings.

We gratefully acknowledge the support of the Kenneth D. Brenner Family Fund for Student Outreach, the Geballe Fund for Academic Initiatives, and the Drs. Ben and A. Jess Shenson Fund.

 

Art/Object considers contemporary works in the collections of the Cantor Arts Center and Bowes Library that fall between the cracks of obvious medium categories. These editions, documents, posters and placards, invitations, and preparatory documents point to the way an artist’s practice often flows across media, with ideas or aesthetics explored through a variety of formats. The virtual exhibition includes works by artists including Eleanor Antin, Andy Goldsworthy, the Guerrilla Girls, Alison Knowles, Jacob Lawrence, Allen Ruppersberg, Ed Ruscha, Kara Walker, Andy Warhol, and Lawrence Weiner, among others.

 

This exhibition is coming in the fall.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Introduction

In 1977, Lawrence Weiner created an invitation for Having been marked with (i.e. decorated), having been decorated with (i.e. marked), with a probability of being seen, his upcoming exhibition at Konrad Fischer Gallery. Its unwieldy title is typical of Weiner’s work, which uses language as a material to construct imagery in the mind of the viewer, and organizationally it is divided into three labels: one in English, one in German, and one with a combination of the two languages. One copy of the invitation is now in the collection of Bowes Library at Stanford University, marking it as an object worth saving. But to a recipient of the invitation in 1977, this decision wouldn’t have been as clear-cut. Is the invitation a work of art, an archival document, or junk mail destined for the wastebin? When considering an object such as an invitation, this determination often depends upon how much time has passed since the item was mailed, the artist’s historical recognition, and the judgment of the person doing the sorting, among many other subjective or indefinite factors.

Art/Object considers works in the collections of the Cantor Arts Center and Bowes Library that raise such tricky issues of classification and preservation. This exhibition grew out of my research on ephemera, a fuzzy and shifting category described by media scholar Mary Desjardins as “throwaways not thrown away.” The artworks in this show raise similar questions of definition, encompassing editions, certificates, posters and placards, invitations, postcards, and preparatory documents: things that fall between the cracks of obvious medium categories. They point to the way an artist’s practice often flows across media, with ideas or aesthetics explored through a variety of formats without regard for the hierarchies and category divisions of critics and collecting institutions.

In the 1960s and 1970s, artists increasingly created time-based performances, instructions and event scores, and language-based constructions. The materials for these works were intentionally inexpensive, designed to disappear or otherwise complicate the division between the supposedly rarified world of art and the actions, sounds, and sights of daily life. While artists have long used media from popular culture and modern city life—Pablo Picasso’s and Georges Braque’s collages incorporating excerpts of newspaper headlines come to mind—Conceptual and performance artists from the Vietnam War era heightened this practice, making works that were difficult to preserve or categorize according to the conventional definitions of museums and art history. The transience and nebulous medium status of new art objects were key to their democratic potential, since a deck of cards or a typed notecard could be circulated widely due to their reproducibility and low cost, in a way that a monumental painting could not.

In the decades that followed, artworks that blurred the boundaries between media became increasingly common, but questions of labeling and sorting lingered. Classifying an invitation, to return to the earlier example, as a print versus an archival document is no small decision, since the categorical schemas imposed by archives, libraries, and museums speak to the values of these particular institutions. And on a more practical level, these medium labels affect the ways in which objects are displayed, their availability to scholars and the public, and the frequency (or infrequency) with which they are exhibited, thereby shaping the audience’s view of artistic developments of the recent past.

This online exhibition invites you to contemplate the fluidity of artistic practice through four thematic sections: images across objects, the artist’s hand, supplements, and everyday things made anew. It features several videos of objects being handled and manipulated, allowing you to better understand their scale and tactility. The items presented here have an obvious usefulness that more straightforward paintings or sculptures lack. They serve purposes of documentation (as in a certificate of authenticity and a capstone), play (playing cards and a pop-up book), and communication (a postcard and several posters), charting the blurred boundaries between artworks and everyday objects.

 


Explore

 


Images Across Objects

Museums and archives often catalog works by a single artist by medium or purpose, separating, for example, sketches and photographic negatives from finished works, or promotional objects from artworks. These practical processes often create a hierarchy, with monumental, recognizable media on top and preparatory items or advertising documents at the bottom. But artists typically explore imagery, compositional strategies, and thematic concerns across media. For example, Frank Stella used curving belts of color in drawings, prints, posters, and sculptures, modifying their appearance based on shifting references, spatial limitations, and contexts. By considering objects produced by a single artist across medium categories in this way, we can gain a richer understanding of the artist’s holistic production and creative process. Rather than presenting a hierarchy divided by media, the pairings in this section present an artist’s production as a continuum that unfolds organically across forms.

Side-by-Side Option 1 (Caption distributed between images, at top)

Andy Warhol met Mick Jagger at a party in New York in 1964, during the Rolling Stones’ first US tour. Jagger and his then-wife Bianca went on to become members of Warhol’s glamorous stable of friends, and in 1971 the artist designed the provocative cover of the Stones’ album Sticky Fingers, which featured a high-contrast close-up of a jeans-clad crotch, complete with a working zipper. This 1976 contact sheet by Warhol, one of 3,600 in the Cantor’s collection, shows Jagger and his daughter Jade on the beach in Montauk, along with Warhol’s boyfriend, Jed Johnson, and their dachshunds, Archie and Amos. Portrait of Mick Jagger, made the same year, pictures Jagger in a far less casual manner: here he appears like an icon, his famous face rendered in layers of shimmering Mylar and paper. While the contact sheet provides glimpses of Warhol and Jagger’s private, informal interactions, the collage portrait is a highly polished, outward-facing presentation, filtering Jagger’s body and gestures through Warhol’s distinctive visual style.

A portrait depicting Mick Jagger

The photograph used in this collage was likely taken during the 1975 photo session that resulted in the ten-screenprint portfolio Mick Jagger. In order to create multicolored screenprints, each color must be inked through a separate screen in order to avoid bleeding and blurring; because the screens are inked directly onto the same surface, the final result of this elaborate process appears as a flat, single image. Artists sometimes use sheets of Mylar to work out the composition of various color layers before they are finalized. It is unclear if Warhol created this collage from preparatory sheets of Mylar or if he always envisioned it as a finalized work, but the use of this typically disposable material physicalizes the printing layers in an unusual fashion. The Mylar makes the printing layers evident, separating the black line drawing on the top from the photographic image on the bottom, with colored paper shapes interspersed in between.

A contact sheet from Andy Warhol

Side-by-Side Option 2 (caption below both images, at bottom)

A portrait depicting Mick Jagger
A contact sheet from Andy Warhol

Andy Warhol met Mick Jagger at a party in New York in 1964, during the Rolling Stones’ first US tour. Jagger and his then-wife Bianca went on to become members of Warhol’s glamorous stable of friends, and in 1971 the artist designed the provocative cover of the Stones’ album Sticky Fingers, which featured a high-contrast close-up of a jeans-clad crotch, complete with a working zipper. This 1976 contact sheet by Warhol, one of 3,600 in the Cantor’s collection, shows Jagger and his daughter Jade on the beach in Montauk, along with Warhol’s boyfriend, Jed Johnson, and their dachshunds, Archie and Amos. Portrait of Mick Jagger, made the same year, pictures Jagger in a far less casual manner: here he appears like an icon, his famous face rendered in layers of shimmering Mylar and paper. While the contact sheet provides glimpses of Warhol and Jagger’s private, informal interactions, the collage portrait is a highly polished, outward-facing presentation, filtering Jagger’s body and gestures through Warhol’s distinctive visual style.

The photograph used in this collage was likely taken during the 1975 photo session that resulted in the ten-screenprint portfolio Mick Jagger. In order to create multicolored screenprints, each color must be inked through a separate screen in order to avoid bleeding and blurring; because the screens are inked directly onto the same surface, the final result of this elaborate process appears as a flat, single image. Artists sometimes use sheets of Mylar to work out the composition of various color layers before they are finalized. It is unclear if Warhol created this collage from preparatory sheets of Mylar or if he always envisioned it as a finalized work, but the use of this typically disposable material physicalizes the printing layers in an unusual fashion. The Mylar makes the printing layers evident, separating the black line drawing on the top from the photographic image on the bottom, with colored paper shapes interspersed in between.

 

 


The Artist's Hand

 


Supplements

 


Everyday Things Made Anew

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The Cantor Arts Center is located at the intersection of Museum Way and Lomita Drive in the heart of the arts district on the Stanford campus. The Cantor faces the Bing Concert Hall across Palm Drive, northwest of The Oval and the Main Quad.

328 Lomita Drive at Museum Way
Stanford, CA 94305-5060

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